Eating animals: a meaty problem?
Can we establish a food policy based on sustainable development?
Does it matter how much meat you eat? Should countries try to limit consumption? How might eating more meat affect our health? Look at the data below and think about what it says about meat consumption, then look at the suggested solution.
Issue 1: Water consumption
The water footprint is the amount of water used directly and indirectly to make a product. The graph below shows the water footprint for several types of food and drink. They are calculated as a global average because variations in farming techniques etc across the world mean that water footprints can vary for products according to where they are made. Water footprints are more than the water contained within something. For example, one litre of beer has a water footprint of around 300 litres. Although the beer contains water, most of its footprint is due to the water needed to produce the barley that’s in the beer. Source: waterfootprint.org
See also: The Crunch: How much water do you eat?
Adapted from waterfootprint.org
Issue 2: Meat consumption
Adapted from guardian.co.uk/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/meat-consumption-per-capita-climate-change
In the UK we ate, on average, nearly 80 kg of meat per person in 2002 – around 12.5 stones! Although this level is relatively high, it has remained roughly stable since the 1960s. In other countries, such as China, meat consumption has increased as people become richer. Now, the Chinese government is taking steps to reduce meat consumption by 50 per cent, much to the delight of campaigners against climate change.
Adapted from theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/meat-consumption-per-capita-climate-change
Issue 3: Childhood obesity
There’s no graph for this section, but we’ve provided the data needed to draw your own (see table, below). A standard graph and questions on this section can be found in our lesson idea notes.
Adapted from bmj.com/content/333/7564/362.full
The Big Picture Institute of Food Policy has proposed a solution to the issues illustrated by the graphs and data above.
Lab bench to barbecue: The government increases funding for research into bioengineered (‘cultured’) meat.
- Scientists might be able to control the amount of protein, fat and other nutrients in this meat.
- Could produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than current meat-production methods.
- People might be uncomfortable about eating cultured meat.
- We don’t just use animals for meat and milk, but also use their wool, skins and fleeces for leather, and their dung for fuel and fertiliser.
Spike Stitch/Flickr CC BY NC ND
Questions for discussion
- Can come up with more pros and cons of your own? For another potential solution and more pros and cons, download our ‘Feast or Famine?’ cards below.
- Feast or famine playing cards [PDF 449KB]